Philadelphia Reflections

The musings of a physician who has served the community for over six decades

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Power of Religion

Religious power can be seen in various ways; here, we refer to the power to command obedience. Disobedience usually has some religious punishment, the power to send someone to hell for disobedience, or the power to extend or deny communion. To a certain degree these punishments are enumerated in advance and agreed-to specifically, and to a certain degree are revealed in retrospect under a blanket agreement to obey if you join. They are semi-contracts. And to a certain degree are revealed in retrospect, as in the power of Reverend Jones to command an entire colony to commit suicide likely was.

The point of no return is at the moment of joining the religion and resembles a contract freely given. Baptism at birth is involuntary and thought by some to go too far. So some religions like the Pennsylvania Amish give the joiner a second chance to reconsider, whereas certain Moslem sects regard the decision to join as final. There are many variations, which bothered the founders of the American Constitution as too much to handle when your goal was unification. and they probably correctly wished they could have found a workable inclusion for slavery. Except for occasional exceptions, joining a religion was the point before and after which the implied contract was considered final. It was the point before which the quid was in existence for the pro quo. Borderline cases would have to be settled by a Judge, or else by a court of Equity. Notice: the default was institutional, usually governmental because by definition it was retrospective, defined by the prior act of accepting citizenship. But if you went beyond that, two systems were unified by a general belief in God. When you are dealing with a large number of dissenters, this system is a little weaker in theory than it was in 1789.

Originally published: Wednesday, May 15, 2019; most-recently modified: Wednesday, May 15, 2019